“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust
I have received a lot of feedback on my writing so far (I know, its been 5 days, I’m not J.K Rowling… yet!), and the most commonly shared request was for me to write about my personal experiences, because people love that stuff.
This got me thinking about one of life’s biggest ‘teachers’ I am lucky enough to have experienced; travel. Now before you close the tab at the dread of me bragging on about the awe inspiring buildings, museums and countries I’ve seen because I’m just so fucking cultured, give me a chance. I’ll also leave the enlightening experiences from the jungles of Ubud for another time (it will come though, sorry). Instead I am referring to the everyday stuff that make up our lives, but can be totally altered by experiencing life outside our cushy beds of clean comfortable sheets and the smells of Mumma’s cooking.
Speaking of mothers, it was mine who encouraged my first adventure the tender age of 17. Following a week of waking up on a tin roof and downing shots at 6am before passing out, then waking once more on a floating mattress in the ocean (otherwise known as schoolies/ leavers), I boarded a wobbly Air Tiger flight to Cairns where I started a month of backpacking on the East Coast of Australia. Thanks to a cheeky fake ID, my world suddenly opened up. I quickly learnt of the excitement that comes with being free to go where I wanted, do what I wanted, for as long as I wanted.
To my surprise, I remember my first light bulb moment which occurred in the grungy walls of a 12 bed dorm. From memory it was a late arvo and I had risen from my hung over haze to the sight of a naked guy getting dressed. He said “hello, big night?” I was slightly overwhelmed, he was rather attractive. I then sat up and had a chat, and before long I was talking to a group of travellers.
I was sitting on my bunk listening to everyone’s stories, before I had the chance to introduce myself as the representative of my country. In that moment I could be whoever I wanted. This memory has stuck like glue because it was in the moment of haze that I realized that there is a massive world outside my own, where my little insecurities and pressures did not (and still don’t) exist. It didn’t matter if I was a good or bad student, daughter, girlfriend, person, whether I was ‘cool’, or what my ‘past’ was. I lost the imaginary labels! I realized that we can decide who we are, and that I was good enough just as I was. For 17 this was life changing.
It wasn’t really until I was 19 and on a tour bus in Italia with another group of strangers that my self confidence was majorly boosted once more through travel. I flew to the country solo, sat my ass down next to a stranger and introduced myself. It was nerve-racking but I needed a buddy. Within ten minutes of chit chat the passenger turned to me and said “I really like you”. Within 24 hours I had bonded with the majority of the group. Making friends with people from all over the world is one of the most fulfilling activities. Particularly as a solo traveller, building bonds is very comforting and uplifting. It also reminds us of how silly cultural barriers and stereotypes are too. Turns out the French, Germans and Koreans are some of the nicest, warm and welcoming hilarious people I’ve met.
“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”
As well as the rattling of love making at 4AM, shared dorms and bathrooms also force us to embrace our bodies! We lose the control over where and when we change, wash, how long for, and after 10 hours of busing or walking around, the thought of whipping out the GHD’s just aint’ that high on the priority list. Luckily the mentality of the majority of people I’ve met travelling, particularly in backpackers has been a ‘who gives a shit!’ one. Just like that, the masks are lifted, and we are encouraged to view life and our priorities differently.
This links to my final and most profound reasoning as to why I believe travelling is fantastic, the loss of CONTROL! Travelling, particularly without concrete plans, forces us to trust ourselves and the world a little bit, which is a liberating experience. From sharing bedrooms with strangers, to boarding local modes of transport and gallivanting around foreign land, we are vulnerable. We are often unsure of how to get somewhere or to find something. These experiences not only encourage us to challenge the lack of trust in strangers that is ingrained in us from childhood, they also suggest that planning can work against us, as there is so much to do, see and learn when in a new place. Not knowing where exactly I am going next is also bloody fun and liberating.
Some of my most fondest memories come from spontaneous encounters that were un- planned. So often we plan our interactions and activities, leaving little room for spontaneity. Travel taught me that this isn’t always necessary, to let life happen naturally. Because it does anyway!
The last little point I have to include for those still reading, is that some of my greatest friendships and life teachers have been found through travel- either on my own, or through others who have found their way to me. I don’t know who I would be without them, or where I would have lived and learned at certain points either- Gracias Amigos!